Since our first visits forays in to wine tasting, even before we delved seriously into Walla Walla wines we have enjoyed the wines made by Chuck Reininger. Brix & Stone, the wine and beer shop in Ephrata I worked in, carried the ‘Helix’ label, Reininger’s second label. The red blend ‘Pomatia’ as well as a couple of varietals under that label were favorites from the start.
When we began visiting Walla Walla regularly Reininger Winery was already located in the West side wine district in a renovated potato shed redesigned into an orderly production facility with a newer addition, in the shape of a ‘grain bin’, where you enter the tasting room. Having established the winery in the late 90’s out at a small facility at the Airport, itself a wine district with many wineries now, they were a strong winery long before we found them later in the afternoon on a Sunday of a big weekend (can’t recall which one right now). It was remarkably quiet when we entered the tasting room, but we were warmly welcomed and had a fantastic time visiting with the staff as they began cleaning up from the eventful weekend; apparently we had just missed the last rush.
Just as we were finishing up Chuck Reininger walked into the tasting room and we were introduced. In short order we were discussing the geologic history of the area and how it related directly to the needs of vinifera grapes, how much it participated in the terroir of the region. I am always up for a good conversation about rocks – just as often as a good conversation about wine – which, of course, came up and we were led on a tour of the original parallel potato storage buildings in their new life as wine making facility, tasting from various tanks and barrels while talking. It was so much fun; subsequent visits have followed some similar patterns.
So for us, visiting Reininger Winery on Fall Release 2014 weekend was almost a necessity since it had been the previous Fall when we were last in. The tasting room staff were busy when we came in, so we went right back to the special release table in the production side. We have met some interesting (all in a good way) local wine people at that spot, but this time we were again nearing the end of the day, so we had our complete tasting before Chuck walked us through the 2014 whites he had in tank. More great conversation with a terrific winemaker; always educational.
Although I don’t have a photo of it, there are a few on the website, the tasting room bar is my favorite of all the testing rooms we have ever been to! It is a column of basalt (locally sourced) that has been split, lengthwise, down the middle and polished. This polished surface up, the top, weathered surface of the column is visible on the end of the bar, unpolished. A testament to Chuck’s passion for geology and wine.
My partner in wine and I tasted through the nine wines, three whites (Semillon, Viognier and Reserve Chardonnay) and six reds (Merlot, a couple Syrah’s and three blends: southern Rhone, a N/V Bordeaux-solara style, and a Merlot/Syah/Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc blend). The two Syrah were 2011 and 2012 Reininger releases – fantastic comparison! The Bordeax has all six varietals blended and encompasses six vintages it is eponymous, after Chuck Reininger himself. But my favorite that day was the SoRho red under the Helix label as a bright, elegant wine. The descriptions on their website are spot on and all are excellent.